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April 17, 2008

Ocean critters to planet: You slobs are killing us!!

Posted: 04:21 PM ET

Apparently a few hundred million of you were zoned out the day your a) mother b) father c) elementary school teacher told you that if you make a mess, you clean it up. And it appears that the smokers of the world had a higher absentee rate than others.

Volunteers on coasts and lakes picked up more than six million pounds of bottles, bags and butts last September 15, during The Ocean Conservancy's annual International Coastal Cleanup. The organization has just released a detailed analysis of the litter they picked up along 33,000 miles of shoreline.

Top 10 debris items collected worldwide:

  • cigarette filters 27%
  • food wrappers/containers 9%
  • caps lids 9%
  • bags 8%
  • beverage bottles (plastic) 6%
  • cups plates forks knives spoons 5%
  • glass bottles 4%
  • cigar tips 4%
  • straws/stirrers 4%
  • beverage cans 4%

The most dangerous items to ocean creatures: plastic bags, balloons, fishing traps, fishing line, and six pack beverage holders. Volunteers also found condoms, diapers, syringes, light bulbs, shotgun shells, and appliances.

Some of the 378,000 volunteers in 76 countries learned firsthand how deadly trash can be to wildlife. Those scouring beaches found 81 birds, 63 fish, 49 invertebrates, 30 mammals 11 reptiles and one amphibian entangled in debris during the cleanup effort. Among the volunteers were 8300 divers, who averaged 20 pounds of trash each.

Data collected in earlier beach cleanups has helped craft marine debris legislation, and helps find simple answers to litter problems.

"It's a wonderful event, engaging people to do something positive," said Laura Capps, Senior Vice President of the Ocean Conservancy. "It also gives us tangible data to identify sources and problems," she said.

Many of the answers to reducing coastal litter do NOT involve rocket science.

Capps said 80% of the beach trash comes from land based sources. And solutions may be as simple as providing more bins on beaches for people to put their picnic litter.

So what about the other 364 days a year when volunteers are not cleaning up?

Sometimes the volunteers who pick up trash on the official cleanup day get active in their communities to make beach beautification a year-round effort.

"For many people the ocean is big and vast and dark, out of sight and out of mind," said Capps. She said people who say they would never leave trash at the beach don't realize that flicking a cigarette out the window or not chasing down a straw wrapper from their kids are creating litter that can just as easily end up in a waterway.

One of the sponsors of the coastal cleanup is a company whose products make up a big part of the trash problem.

Paige Magness, spokeswoman for Philip Morris, said there are simple answers to reducing some cigarette trash.

She said the cigarette manufacturer works with the national non-profit Keep America Beautiful organization to place cigarette receptacles at the entrances of non-smoking buildings. In 2007, she said that effort reduced cigarette litter by 54% in the 180 participating communities.

Cans and bottles also make up a big part of ocean trash. Coca-Cola has been working with the Ocean Conservancy and its cleanup efforts for 12 years.

"We have an extensive research and development program, we are always looking at the next innovation in packaging," said Lisa Manley, Director of Environmental Communications at Coke headquarters in Atlanta.

She said the company was among the first to use recycled content, and to invest on "bottle to bottle" facilities, taking used plastic and turning it into new bottles.

The Ocean Conservancy says it wants to stress the positive aspect of hundreds of thousands of people making a difference in cleaning up coastal areas.

And maybe some of those "things you should have learned in kindergarten" need a little review. It could be your bottle or your cigarette butt responsible for killing some of the million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles that die from eating or becoming tangled in marine trash every year.

–Marsha Walton, Producer, CNN Science and Technology

Filed under: Animals • environment

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Franko   April 20th, 2008 4:17 am ET

Uncomfortable for the sunbathers, but not death blow for marine life.

After we caught crabs for eating, we were warned not to eat then because of PCB pollutants. Killer whales in the Arctic are most toxic.
Are the Arctic pods doomed ?

Lee   April 20th, 2008 3:15 pm ET

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of plastic a thousand miles wide. It circles around above Hawaii and has been growing between the Ocean's currents since the 1950s. Every day it releases thousands of tons of dioxin into the sea.

Seabirds like the beloved Albatross feed the floating bits of plastic to their doomed babies who happily eat it, thinking it will nourish them.

Scientists have found microscopic particles of plastic in every corner of the worlds seas.

Franko   April 21st, 2008 11:04 am ET

Will The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stick together eventually,
and form the biggest man made object ?

Colonized by sea creatures as an alternate coral reef ?

Mined and converted to useable products ?

Donald   April 22nd, 2008 12:43 am ET

I live on the Gulf Coast. It kills me that the very people who "enjoy" the water ways for recreation and employment are some of the same people who do the most damage. I've seen with my own eyes shrimp boat deck hands throwing garbage bags overboard and fishermen tossing empty water bottles and beer cans over the sides of their boats. These "sportsmen" are endangering the very fish they spend so much time and money pursuing. I have participated in the coastal cleanup for about 5 years now and everytime I go I'm amazed at what I find.Especially after the two hurricanes of the past few years. Whole neighborhoods of houses were washed away. Incredible. Now everytime I go to the beach I take trash bags and fill them up. Which makes me ask why do people have to throw anything out of their boat or their car when there are trashcans at every Gas station and at every boat launch. Not to mention the one at our homes. Littering is an act of irresponsibility that you can and should be fined for. As for the Garbage Patch, Someone should rent a big ship with some nets and go clean it up. Our garbage today is the futures fuel. It doesn't belong in our oceans rivers lakes and streams it belongs in the dump where our decendents can easily get to it.
You remember the old Native American in the commercials back in the 1970's with the tear in his eye because he was sad about what man's pollution had done to the land. We need to stick him in a wet suit and stand him on top of the patch, maybe that would get someone's attention.

Barry in Texas   April 22nd, 2008 8:47 am ET

Can we recycle those cigarette filters? I don't think the slobs who discarded them would mind sucking smoke through recovered and reprocessed ones. Surely, aluminum cans aren't the only profitably recyclable commodity in the world.

Rich   April 24th, 2008 3:28 pm ET

Then we can see if the smokers' lungs can be recycled along with the filters.

Reinhard Mirkovich   April 25th, 2008 4:15 pm ET

There is no shortage of slobs. Outside of Africa and some parts of Asia, we (in the USA) are probably the trashiest people in the world – by a considerable margin. Take a drive on any highway. Notice the McDonalds wrappers and Starbucks cups dotting the soft shoulder. Every couple of miles you'll see a plastic trashbag or two, flipped overboard from some pickup truck, split open and scatteringg its disgusting content. How about the streams of loose papers and other crap that pours out of garbage trucks on their way to the dump, the rusting appliances and auto wrecks that now populate our forests and yes, peoples' front yards.

The cigarette butts, casually discarded drink containers, used condoms, diapers, syringes, tires, miscellaneous car parts and all manner of effluvia everywhere are a sad testament to our absolute self indulgence and lack of care. But there's hope: we will probably eradicate ourselves in the next couple of wars and put an end to it all. Then, the planet may recover.

Will   April 27th, 2008 8:03 am ET

If Plankton are do important to our atmosphere and to human kind, why don't the scientist try to farm these micro-organisms?

Franko   April 29th, 2008 6:16 am ET

Garbage Mountains are arising world over.

Now we are creating marine versions. How will the oceans adapt ?

"there’s hope: we will probably eradicate ourselves "
With Reinhard Mirkovich unable to observe his hopeful result,
Who will appreciate a zero human population world ?

Chance   April 30th, 2008 1:15 pm ET

Cigarettes butts?! thats disgusting! Why would people leave trash like that on a beach? Condoms? Used Condoms? Thats terrible

ayanis lindo   April 30th, 2008 2:12 pm ET

Yeah Thats Right!!

ayanis.lindo   April 30th, 2008 2:12 pm ET

Thats right ti believe in that.

Franko   May 1st, 2008 3:21 am ET

Now I know it all, How Mermaids came to be !
Discard for one species is the seed for another.

But, it is hard for Mermaids to smoke underwater.
Try fishfood, not cigarettes to charm a Mermaid.

mary vecchio   May 3rd, 2008 1:56 pm ET

Marsha Walton, It would help if children had environmental classes but few do. Our schools simply don't have the resources, nor enough teachers who care! They have their curriculum and there just not enough hero's out there. It is children learning from parents what to respect and what not to respect. Teaching might help, better than no one ever raising their awareness. As to trash cans along beaches.It would help.Placed very close together. People on the average, don't want to walk to throw away anything. They just drop. A stiff tax should be added to cigarette cartons to cover the cost of damage and toxicity to waterways, and raised every year! . In observing folks who smoke, including some of my family, there is a fundamental psychological dis-respect for their own health. These people simply don't have any regard for environmental preservation . .. The education system simply doesn't have the resources to implement courses where-by students would become knowledgeable and hopefully raise their concern.Very few schools have those resources. So many families live from hand to mouth, live an exceedingly stressful life and certainly never think about the environment so in turn there is no good example being demonstrated to their children. Of course I have also seen the very wealthy also demonstrating they haven't any concern also.[ I say this with a great deal of experience as I go from town to town and watch children and young adults and older folks throwing whatever waste they have in their hands directly onto the pavement or ground where they have passed, in areas where there are trash cans available. ] Of course , I have also witnessed trash being thrown from vehicles also. Cigarette smokers freely without any thought, throwing their smoldering butts down anywhere. In Arizona, I constantly stomped on still burning butts ,along side our condo, and road, on very dry grasses. Of course that happens all the time in Fla. where I now am. In our home town, I have called in several times to report people throwing plastic bottles and other waste from their windows of their vehicles, with license plate numbers, and have never seen the item picked up. If the persons governing municipalities don't take action and fine people who consciously litter, how are those individuals to ever perhaps gain a realization of the need to care. I realize this letter does not get us anywhere but this is my experience and I am in my sixties, still observing a lack of conscience out there. There is a lot of media on these environmental issues and that gives me hope. . I who am fortunate enough to buy organic foods, see so many other people trying to go green; even though a third of them carry in their cloth bags to grocery shop, they drive themselves there in their gas guzzling ozone adding, SUV's and Hummers. But, it is a start. Good luck and thanks for your efforts in this cause, trying to salvage and re-start anything that is left on this beautiful earth. Mary

Clean Logic » Blog Archive » Littering is not Effective   May 20th, 2010 1:20 pm ET

[...] a volunteer effort combed 33,000 miles of beach on September 15th, the body count was in. A grand total of 235 dead [...]

Rex Penigar   June 30th, 2013 7:04 am ET

armers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct more sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay. ..*;:


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